Born in San Francisco, California, Conrad graduated from Taft School in Watertown, Connecticut. He attended the University of North Carolina, where he was captain of the freshman boxing team. He also studied painting at the University of Mexico, where he also became interested in bullfighting. After being injured in the bullring, he returned to college and graduated from Yale University in 1943.
Conrad was American Vice Consul to Seville, Málaga, and Barcelona from 1943 to 1946. While in Spain, he studied bullfighting with Juan Belmonte, Manolete, and Carlos Arruza. In 1945 he appeared on the same program with Belmonte and was awarded the ears of the bull. He is the only American male to have fought in Spain, Mexico and Peru.
In 1947, he worked as secretary to famed novelist Sinclair Lewis. Conrad published his first novel, The Innocent Villa, in 1948. It largely went unnoticed, but his second novel, Matador, sold 3 million copies. John Steinbeck chose Conrad's Matador as his favorite book of the year, and the novel has been translated into 28 languages. Royalties from Matador provided Conrad with the capital to open El Matador nightclub in San Francisco in 1953. Herb Caen, noting that Matador was the publisher's suggested alternative to the original title Conrad had given his second novel, commented on Conrad naming his nightclub after his first best seller: "Who'd ever go eat at a restaurant called Day of Fear?" In 1997 Conrad wrote Name Dropping: Tales From My San Francisco Nightclub, "a jaunty account" about the 10 years he ran El Matador.
In 1958, Conrad was gored almost fatally in a bullfight that was part of a charity event. After learning of the incident, Eva Gabor is said to have run into Noël Coward at Sardi's in New York and asked him, "Did you hear about poor Barnaby? He was terribly gored in Spain." Coward replied, "Oh, thank heavens. I thought you said he was bored."
Conrad started the Santa Barbara Writers Conference in 1973 at the Cate School, inviting well-known authors such as Eudora Welty, Gore Vidal, Joan Didion and Ross Macdonald. He and his wife Mary directed the literary gathering until Conrad sold the conference in 2004. His son, Barnaby Conrad III, is also a San Francisco based writer.
Works by Barnaby Conrad
- Matador (1952) ISBN 0-88496-286-5
- OCLC 153828 Zorro, a fox in the city (1971) ISBN 0-385-04149-7
- Endangered (1978) with Niels Mortensen ISBN 0-399-12171-4
- OCLC 232653594 Condor (1978) with Niels Mortensen
- Keepers of the Secret (1983) with Nico Mastorakis ISBN 978-0-515-05544-3
- The Last Boat to Cadiz (2003) ISBN 1-59266-032-0
- The Second Life of John Wilkes Booth (2010) ISBN 1-57178-225-7
- OCLC 1349149 La Fiesta Brava : The Art of the Bull Ring (1953)
- The Death of Manolete (1958) ISBN 1-59777-548-7
- "Gates of Fear" (1958) Lib. of Cong.Cat.No. 57-10110 http://www.amazon.com/GATES-OF-FEAR-exploits-bullrings/dp/B000HG830G
- OCLC 484064775 Barnaby Conrad's Encyclopedia of Bullfighting (1961)
- Tahiti (1962) ref: http://www.biblio.com/books/107906968.html
- Fun While it Lasted (1969) ISBN 0-7181-0773-X
- A Revolting Transaction (1983) ISBN 0-87795-534-4
- Time Is All We Have : Four Weeks at the Betty Ford Center (1986) ISBN 0-87795-835-1
- Hemingway's Spain (1989) ISBN 0-87701-561-9
- Advice from the Masters: A Compendium for Writers (1991) ISBN 978-1-880093-01-6
- Name Dropping : Tales from my Barbary Coast Saloon (1994) ISBN 0-06-258507-X
- Learning to Write Fiction from the Masters (1996) ISBN 978-0-452-27657-4
- Name Dropping : Tales from my San Francisco Nightclub (1997) ISBN 0-9649701-4-7
- Snoopy's Guide to the Writing Life (2002) with Monte Schultz ISBN 1-58297-194-3
- 101 Best Scenes ever Written : A Romp Through Literature for Writers and Readers (2006) ISBN 1-884956-56-4
- 101 Best Beginnings Ever Written : A Romp Through Literatary Openings for Writers and Readers (2009) ISBN 1-884956-86-6
As editor, translator or contributor
- OCLC 84219226 The Wounds of Hunger (1957) translation of Más Cornadas da el Hambre by Luis Spota
- OCLC 1576413 The second life of Captain Contreras (1960) translation of La Otra vida del Capitan Contreras by Torcuato Luca de Tena
- OCLC 1512811 My Life as a Matador The autobiography of Carlos Arruza. (1960)
- The Complete Guide to Writing Fiction (1990) with the staff of the Santa Barbara Writers Conference ISBN 0-89879-395-5
- "William Spratling" (1990) in Spratling Silver by Sandraline Cederwall and Hal Riney ISBN 0-87701-845-6
- The World of Herb Caen : San Francisco, 1938-1997 (1997) with Carole Vernier ISBN 0-8118-1859-4
- The World's Shortest Stories : Murder. Love. Horror. Suspense. All this and much more in the most amazing short stories ever written—each one just 55 words long! (2006) Steve Moss, editor ISBN 0-7624-0300-4
Famous "sports" quote
- "About Barnaby Conrad". The Death of Manolete by Barnaby Conrad. Pippin Publishing. Archived from the original on 9 April 2010. Retrieved 18 April 2010.
- "Barnaby Conrad - Last Boat to Cadiz". Capra Press. Retrieved 18 April 2010.
- Chawkins, Steve. (2013, February 16). Barnarby Conrad Jr. dies at 90; bullfighter, artist, saloonkeeper founded Santa Barbara Writers Conference. The Los Angeles Times.
- "Barnaby Conrad, Man of Many Hats and a Cape, Dies at 90". New York Times. Retrieved 17 February 2013.
- "Our History". San Francisco International Film Festival - The First to Fifty. San Francisco Film Society. Retrieved 18 April 2010.
- Landazuri, Margarita. "Interview with Barnaby Conrad". San Francisco Film Society Oral History Project. San Francisco Film Society. Retrieved 18 April 2010.
- Brantingham, Barney (29 March 2010). "Monte Schulz Bids for S.B. Writers Conference". Santa Barbara Independent (Santa Barbara, California). On the Beat. Archived from the original on 2 May 2010. Retrieved 18 April 2010.
- Brantingham, Barney (12 February 2013). "Barnaby Conrad Dies". Santa Barbara Independent (Santa Barabara, California).
- "Open Mic: What's a Sport?". Bleacher Report. Retrieved 4 October 2013.
- After Sixty Years, A Promise Kept to Sinclair Lewis, The New York Times accessed 01-26-2011
- IMDB Profile
En 2007 la Fundación José Manuel Lara (Grupo Planeta España), publicó la biografía española de Barnaby Conrad, obra del escritor Salvador Gutiérrez Solís. Barnaby Conrad, una pasión española.